According to the United Nations Istanbul Protocol (2004), the Guide for doctors and lawyers who document and investigate allegations of prisoner mistreatment, reducing detainees to a state of helplessness and despair “is itself one of the central harms of torture”:

“One of the central aims of torture is to reduce an individual to a position of extreme helplessness and distress that can lead to a deterioration of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functions. Thus, torture is a means of attacking an individual’s fundamental modes of psychological and social functioning. Under such circumstances, the torturer strives not only to incapacitate a victim physically but also to disintegrate the individual’s personality.”  (p. 45)

A CIA Fax dated Dec. 2004, to Daniel Levin  of the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel states:

“the goal of interrogation is to create a sense of learned helplessness and dependence conducive to the collection of intelligence in a predictable, reliable, and sustainable manner. It is important to demonstrate to the [detainee] that he has no control over basic human needs.” (cited by Constitution Project Task Force on Detainee Treatment, Ch. 6, Ref. 15)

In an interview on Frontline (Sept. 13, 2011), former CIA counsel, John Rizzo stated:
“the techniques themselves were not intended [or] designed to make [detainees] talk while actually being subjected to those techniques…I’m a lawyer, not a psychologist, but as I also understand, there’s a theory called learned helplessness.” (Ref. 17)

And Jose Rodriguez, head of CIA’s counterterrorism (2002 – 2005) stated on CBS 60 Minutes: “This program was about instilling a sense of hopelessness and despair on the terrorist.” (Ref. 18)